She pulled out the file folders from one of the moving boxes (the clippings had traveled with her from Iowa to D.C., to Germany and Denver) and sifted through them. And as she was doing that, as she pulled each one out, re-read it and carefully put it aside, she had a vivid memory of looking at a huge magazine stand at the University of Iowa, reaching past John Deere's Tractor Quarterly and Cosmopolitan, and picking the Hollywood Reporter from the racks. And not just one time. Often. Once a week at least. Thinking back now, she remembered that she wouldn't read the first two or three pages, the ones with the stories about the biggest stars of the day and their exploits. Instead, she would turn to the back of the magazine and read about the details of the deals. How did this movie get financed? Which studio bought this book to adapt into a movie? Who was going to direct it? How much would they get paid?

It seemed crazy that she'd forgotten this, but with all the flitting around the world and the scrabbling for work and the traipsing after her boyfriend, she had. Now, as she sat quietly reading the clippings—here was one about the setting up of the Disney Channel, here was one about the making of Beverly Hills Cop—it came back to her with great vividness. Huh, she thought. Interesting. I really like learning about the details of movie business deals.

She didn't know what job she should try to get, but at least she had something authentic to build on. And while she had no connections and no film experience, at least she was in the right town to start discovering what she wanted to build.

She asked around in some employment agencies and was told, "If you want to learn the ropes, become an assistant to a talent agent. You'll probably hate it—they'll make you scurry around like a mad 4-year-old—but there's no better or faster way to gain experience in the entertainment industry."

So Anna thought, All right, I'll treat it as an MBA in the entertainment industry. I'll work as seriously as I can for three years and then take stock. She had heard of a company that promoted from within its ranks, so she applied there for an assistant's job and was hired to work for a book agent.

"From almost the day I arrived, I knew I was at the right place," Anna says. "There was a book that my boss was trying to buy for a producer, and as her assistant I got to see the whole thing unfold. I was at the center of it all as we negotiated with the author of the book, hooked in a screenwriter, and closed the deal with the production company. I can still remember holding the author's $1 million check in my hand. But it wasn't the money that excited me; it was being at the center of things. Being the hub. I just loved that I knew more than everyone else about what was going on."

Fueled by this love, her new role consumed her. While other assistants were out at parties, schmoozing and networking, Anna stayed late at work, gathering information, planning, devising ways for the agency to do better, writing ideas and notes for her boss at midnight. Looking back, she realizes she was probably something of a nuisance, but she couldn't stop. The ideas came so furiously she just had to capture them and share them with whoever would listen. Finally, she thought, my real life has started.


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